I know that this is a slightly odd question for this site, but hopefully I can get some advice on this point. I have a bird feeder where I've been using a fairly "generic" bird seed mix for about a year. Truthfully, it was fairly inexpensive seed, so it was somewhat larger/lower-quality seed than my previous brand. After starting to use it, I started getting less diversity of what kinds of birds I was getting; I used to regularly get cardinals and robins, for example, but now I mostly get sparrows and doves. In an effort to get more diversity, I got thistle seed; due to the type of feeder I have, I was able to provide my generic food in the bottom half and the thistle seed in the top half. (It has space for birds to eat at either). I also got an additional suet feeder at around the same time. However, I'm still only getting the same types of birds, who only eat the "generic" seed I've been providing. Birds don't seem to eat the suet food or thistle seed.

How can I get other types of birds to "realize" that I'm now providing other food types too?

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    Are you sure, the birds are able to reach the seeds? If they are still inside of the thistle thing, it may need to be a kind of stable, not turning, so they can get hold on it and take them out. Also did you had a search, if in your region there was some infection of robins and similar? Could be, that there are less now. (Was in my region two years ago with blackbirds and some years before with greenfinch). In general you could try different kinds of offering the same seeds (hanging, laying, with or without thistle) and you could try to spread them around, to let birds find them accidental. Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 19:18

2 Answers 2


All birds do not eat seeds; those that do eat seed seem to prefer sunflower seed. I am in south central US, TX piney woods. Thistle seed is not popular; Goldfinches prefer the seeds of our many sweetgum trees. Robins prefer fruit and insects/worms to seed. When a Robin goes to a seed feeder , I think they are looking for insects. Fortunately we do not get English "house" Sparrows, they and doves are the few birds that like the generic bird seed. Woodpeckers prefer suet and peanut butter; I find peanut butter more convenient. Water is good for attracting many types of birds.

  • sunflower is for a lots of small birds to big (maybe not, if it is without seed-cover). Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 11:29
  • Chickadees and titmice have no problem with them. Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 18:08
  • funny ... chickadee and titmous translates to the same animal in German ^^ but I am sure they are different, because it names a big family of birds. Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 18:44

I assume it depends where you are from and at what season you want to feed them.

In Europe it is not so much common to feed birds in the summer. In rural areas they would prefer to hide and would find enough food, in urban areas they would not be fed enough to live there, and the doves and sparrows which live there, do not need to be fed separately.

So in Europe the most people who want to feed birds, do so in winter time. When snow covers the grounds, the birds are not easy able to find enough food. Then bird feeders attract the most attention.

In general one does not need to install road signs, saying "Fly in". Some birds will find the food by accident and others will follow. But to increase this, first one can spread some (small) amount of food in a bigger range around the bird feeder, so the "by accident" increases. But be careful, food at the ground could also attract rats, you do not want.

Some birds are vegetarians (some only in winter), they prefer seeds in any size. Small would be poppy, rape, hemp, sesame, line, millet and grass seed. Bigger are sunflower (with or without peel), peanut, walnut, hazelnut (nuts without peel), raisins and even half of apples (you should warm apples up inside from time to time so they not freeze).

Other birds like to eat insects even in winter. To attract them you can try dried meal-worm (wren and jay adore them) and other dried insects one can find for reptile-pets (but be careful to avoid "added vitamins", they would suit reptiles, but not birds).

Also the place to feed is important. To avoid birds as doves or crows one can add a wide sturdy mesh, smaller birds pass through, but bigger can't. The feeder should pretend to be a safe place, so not at the ground (cats), between some twigs (hawks). If you want to place it in front of your window, you can add some "twig" between window and feeder, so you can see them, but they feel safe. Some birds like to peck from a surface, others like to hold at the food, hanging down. Some like to eat at the feeder, some like to carry one seed away, eat and take the next seed away.

Because you mentioned suet: At my country there is spreading a disease in hogs, also affecting pigs, which can be carried from all pig parts. So be careful you use suet from cows only, or use coconut oil (palm oil has also some environmental issues...).

So in conclusion you should try different variations and see, what works best. More different you offer, more different birds will be attracted.

  • Do you happen to know what birds appreciate poppy seeds?
    – Stephie
    Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 21:19
  • @Stephie There are two groups: the small "soft-food-eater" (eat insects in summer) as robin, blackbird, starling, wren and dunnock, they can not eat big seeds. Commented Dec 31, 2022 at 7:39
  • Second group are the more flexible "all you can eat" birds, they switch in winter to seeds of poppy, sunflower and hemp. This group contains woodpeckers, tits and nuthatch. Commented Dec 31, 2022 at 7:42
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    last two comments: german source nabu.de/tiere-und-pflanzen/voegel/helfen/vogelfuetterung/… Commented Dec 31, 2022 at 7:42

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